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August 22, 2015

Sage Karam

THE MODERATOR: We have a new entry into the ABC Supply 500 tomorrow. Max Karam will be joining us tomorrow. Sage, tell us who we have here and your backstory with him.
SAGE KARAM: This is Max. He's a golden-doodle. He's like seven, I think. He's going to be seven years old.
Me and Max took a photo a few weeks ago. My teammates ribbed me for it because they said it looked a little inappropriate. He got pretty famous off the photo. So he's a little more famous than me in the IndyCar paddock right now.
I figured I'd bring him out. He's a cool dog. He's having fun. He's too excited right now, I would say.
THE MODERATOR: What is decorating his shirt here?
SAGE KARAM: It just says Karam 8 on it. I have another shirt that has the actual Instagram post on it from Mid-Ohio. Maybe I'll get him in that tomorrow.
THE MODERATOR: Where is Max going to sit during the race?
SAGE KARAM: I don't know. Whoever will take him. I'm looking for someone to watch him (laughter).
THE MODERATOR: I'm sure you'll get some volunteers in here.
Getting to business, you performed very well in practice this morning. You must be very delighted that you were able to perform so well at your home track. What are your initial impressions? Obviously raced here in Indy Lights before, but now in IndyCar.
SAGE KARAM: Yeah, no, it's been great so far. This track's really a great track. It's one of these places that I gelled well with right off the bat. Even in Indy Lights, finished second here. That was big for the championship. I'm having a lot of fun here right now.
The car rolled off the trailer really quick. All the Chip Ganassi cars are really quick. I can't really thank them enough.
It's easy when you show up to a track, roll off pretty fast. We tweaked it a little bit, got some good qualifying stuff coming in. The car is really good in race traffic right now. That's the biggest thing, you have to find the balance between turns one and three. But the racecar itself is very good.
I'm looking forward to qualifying. It's going to be interesting. I don't know really who is quick right now and who is not. It's going to be interesting.
I have to qualify early. I hate going early in qualifying. I like going last. I got to go third. Kind of bummed out about that, but we'll make the best of it.
THE MODERATOR: As your season comes to an end, how do you reflect back on it? How was this first experience for you?
SAGE KARAM: Definitely just a learning year, rookie year. Lots of ups and downs. Started out with a lot of downs, now I think it's starting to go up from here.
You know, I've just been having a lot of fun and learning. Sometimes I learn too much in a day and I can't process it all. But when you got teammates like Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Charlie Kimball, it's so hard to bring something positive onto the team because they know so much. That was my main goal this year, to contribute in a positive way.
I think now this later part of the season, we've been able to contribute to some weekends in a positive manner. Like today, you know, this is a big weekend for Dixon and the championship. He needs a good race. For us to go out there and be able to show speed, give him data, help him out as much as we can, that's helping the team.
So far I feel like I'm doing everything I can this weekend for the team and also for myself. Having a lot of fun.
THE MODERATOR: We will open it up for questions.

Q. So let me get this straight. You said your teammates thought it was inappropriate. Tony Kanaan is one of your teammates.
SAGE KARAM: Yeah, he thinks everything's inappropriate (laughter).

Q. Including what they did to your Camaro?
SAGE KARAM: Yes. He's always giving me a tough time. That's Tony.
But, no, he just has fun with it. I took this photo with Max basically. He was sitting on my lap. Just went for a run. I didn't have a shirt on and stuff. They were like, Oh, looks like you're naked with your dog or whatever.
I'm like, No, it's just my dog, my best friend, chill.
I ended up taking the photo down, which made it look even worse. T.K. like screen shot it. He gave it to people around the track to use. Then people blew it up on big posters at Mid-Ohio, stickers, made shirts. So the dog became pretty famous off of it.

Q. A race-related question. You've made quite an impression your rookie season here. A lot of people say one of the things IndyCar needs is a personality that's not afraid to go out there and stir things up. You've been wearing the black hat at some points. Is that a role you're willing to play?
SAGE KARAM: You know, I think if they want to call me a villain, I'm not going to tell them to stop. I'm not going to say, No, it's not true, whatever.
People have opinions, and that's fine. I just go out there every weekend and I drive my hardest. I do whatever I can to win. Whether the other guys like it or not, I don't know, that's up to them.
But for me, that's just how I drive: aggressive and wanting to win.

Q. Running here in Indy Lights, is it an advantage?
SAGE KARAM: I don't remember anything from Indy Lights. This is a whole different animal. It was also two years ago for me, so...
Definitely a change. A lot faster. When you add 30 miles an hour, you don't think it's a lot. But when you're doing it 200 laps, it's a lot.
It's amazing how fast these cars are. You never think the car is going to stick out there, especially turn three. It's pretty tight. Looks like it's got no banking. You go into it, the first few laps I was downshifting twice, now you're flat out sixth gear. You just don't think it's going to stick. Somehow it sticks.
It's an amazing track. It's amazing fun. I had to learn all over again. I'm just thankful the car has been fairly quick right off the bat and it was pretty easy for me to learn.

Q. Sage, I know you were here with the Indy Lights. This is your hometown track. You grew up 20 miles down the road. What are your thoughts on the whole weekend and having friends and family, maybe dealing with some potential distractions?
SAGE KARAM: Yeah, I did it in Indy Lights, too. It was the same thing. Pretty much all the people that are here, maybe a little less, were here for Indy Lights. I went through it before.
It's just another race. That's how you've got to look at it. It's the same thing with the Indy 500. It's a very big race, yes. But once you get in the car, get going, it's just another race.
I'll try to do everything the same this weekend I'd do if this wasn't Pocono. I think it's cool that I have a lot of fans here, friends, family. I know I got a lot of first-time people coming to this race. So I think that's good for the sport, as well.
I can't even count how many people I got coming to this race that are first-timers, which is great. That's what we need for this sport and everything.
It's not any added pressure. I don't think it's any added distraction. It just makes things more exciting.

Q. You being from Nazareth, the same as the Andrettis, have you developed a relationship with them at all, maybe like a friendship here, maybe learning something from them as well?
SAGE KARAM: Yeah, I knew them since I was about four years old. Yeah, me and Marco, we're good friends. We hang out all the time. Just hanging out the other night, taking bets on who's going to win this race (laughter).
No, we actually don't have a real bet in place. But we make little side jokes and stuff. It's good fun.
Me and Marco, we're good friends. We were actually out there running together for a little bit. It's always fun to be racing with them. He was pretty quick. I was pretty quick. It's good to see two Nazareth boys towards the front.

Q. What is the behavior of the car with the new aero package?
SAGE KARAM: It's not so bad. It's just hard to get close. My car was fairly good. I could get closer, it looked like, than other cars through turn one and stuff. But turn three is quite tricky.
These aero packages, they like air. When they get disrupted air, it makes it very difficult. The car likes to move around a bit. You know, it kind of throws your setup out the window for that corner.
It's hard to get a balance because anything you really do, it makes it very difficult to even feel that change when you get behind people. So I think, you know, you're going to be able to pass here a little bit. I think a lot of your passes, you need to time off people making mistakes or catching other cars in front of them, then getting aero tight, then you just have to time it right.

Q. You mentioned you had some first-time fans coming to see you. With the season ending soon, what do you think we can do to get more first-time watchers? What do you think would make a big splash? Do you have any suggestions?
SAGE KARAM: Yeah, I think you'd start by trying to get me in a car for Sonoma. That's the biggest thing, I need to find some sponsorship and get me in a car (laughter).
No, obviously I think the sport needs what it's been having this year. You know, 72 hours after an event, you still get people talking about it. It needs a little bit of drama. It needs fun and excitement. It needs good racing. I think that's what it's produced this year. I think this is probably one of the best seasons that fans have been a part of.
I think you've seen it's been growing a little bit. I think with time it's going to keep growing. I think the hundredth Indy 500 is obviously going to help next year.
But it's going to be hard to get a bunch of people out for just the next race. It's a thing that's going to take some time. But the good thing is I think right now it's on the up, so... We'll take it.

Q. Sage, you were here in Indy Lights. You took the mic after the race. Why did you do that? Did you feel disrespected?
SAGE KARAM: No, I was just mad. Carlos, he won. He's from Colombia. Then my championship rival was my teammate Gabby Chaves, he's from Colombia. I was in a Colombian sandwich.
Gabby tried passing me. He passed me. But then I passed him back. We got into it. One Colombian came in and whipped my butt on my home turf, wasn't going to let two of them do it.
THE MODERATOR: Sage, thank you very much.

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